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'Stephen Foster Story' to feature new actors, Old Dog Tray

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By Erin L. McCoy

Stephen Foster will take the stage for his 53rd season of “The Stephen Foster Story” production Saturday with a new Old Dog Tray and new actors portraying Stephen and his love interest, Jeanie. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the cast on opening night at a Garden Party at My Old Kentucky Home before the 8:30 p.m. performance.

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Scraps will replace the much-beloved Rascal, who portrayed Old Dog Tray for 12 years but died in April at the age of 15. Scraps is a 1-year-old Yorkshire Terrier-Maltese related to Rascal and served as his understudy last year, Artistic Director Johnny Warren said. They also shared the same owners — Jim and Katie Amburgey, Bardstown.

“He is a little, bitty, fuzzy dog, cute as can be,” Warren said of Scraps, who has been doing well in rehearsals.

Indianapolis native Max Pallman will step into the role of Stephen Foster. A drama and voice student at New York University, Pallman has acted in productions of “Les Miserables” (Jean Valjean), “Noises Off!” (Gary), “Footloose” (Willard) and “Urinetown” (Bobby Strong). At NYU he has acted in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (Gabriel/Ensemble), “Twelfth Night” (Malvolio), and other productions.

Lexington native Taylor Coriell will portray Jane McDowell or Jeanie, star of the song “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and Stephen Foster’s love interest. Coriell recently received her bachelor of music degree in vocal performance from the University of Kentucky. She has performed in such productions as “The Pirates of Penzance” (Mabel), “The 25th … Spelling Bee” (Olive) and “The Magic Flute” (Papagena).

It’s not often a Kentucky native takes a leading role in “The Stephen Foster Story,” Warren said.

“It happens occasionally but it is rare, so it’s a great opportunity for us this year to feature a Kentucky native in one of our lead roles,” he said.

Several Nelson Countians play other roles onstage and off during the show, including Charlie Beam, who plays John Rowan, Alan Akers as Stephen’s brother and an ensemble member, Lee Grigsby Evans as Stephen’s mother, costumer Si Arnold, and ensemble members Lauren Bryan, Callie Ethington, Corey Kieslich, Jan McIntire, Marc Monroe, Darrell Parks, Mary Grace Rapier, Amber Steff, Gary Vidito, Jennifer Warren and Celia Whelan.

Opening night tickets are $25 apiece, but for $50, guests can have dinner and a show, starting with the Opening Night Gala and Silent Auction, commonly referred to as the Garden Party, at 6:30 p.m.

“It’s a full dinner — au d’oeuvres, dinner, desert, open bar,” Warren said. The event will be on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home, in the visitor’s center, outside in the garden and in the rotunda. 

“We’ll also have cast members at the Garden Party mingling and meeting the guests, so it’s a good chance to get autographs, to have an up-close, personal look at costumes, to talk to some of our new cast members, to talk to … veteran cast members that have been doing the show for years,” Warren said.

A silent auction will feature about 30 donated items ranging from tickets to attractions and events throughout Kentucky to gift baskets from local distilleries.

A unique new item will be a special painting inspired by “The Stephen Foster Story” on which several artists from the Fine Arts Bardstown Society collaborated.

“For the first time ever, we’ll have an actual dress that has been worn in ‘The Stephen Foster Story’ part of the silent auction,” Warren added.

Guests can walk from My Old Kentucky Home to the J. Dan Talbott Amphitheatre when they’re finished with their meals.

“There’s a path between the home and the amphitheater, and it will be lit so that people can safely walk back and forth,” Warren said.

Regular-season tickets are $23 for preferred seating and $18 for standard reserved seating. For children ages 6-12, tickets are $10, and children 5 and younger have free admission. Shows will run 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays from June 11-Aug.13, excepting days when “The Wizard of Oz” is scheduled, with 2 p.m. matinees every Saturday at Bardstown High School. “The Wizard of Oz” will run 8:30 p.m. every Thursday and Saturday from July 7-Aug. 6.

To purchase tickets, call (800) 626-1563 or visit www.stephenfoster.com.